Do you ever think about checking your moles? Most of us are aware that skin cancer, more specifically melanoma, can occur in moles. Unfortunately fewer of us are aware of non-melanoma skin cancers which do not appear in moles. So what should we be looking for?
The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC). In fact BCC’s make up for more than 80% of all skin cancers in the UK. They can occur anywhere on the body but most commonly they appear in sun exposed areas as they are often caused by UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds.
When checking for non-melanoma skin cancers, they may appear as the following:-
- A scaly red patch on the skin
- A firm red lump
- A scab which never fully heals over.
- A lesion which recurrently bleeds.
It’s important not to get too weighed down with the above and second guess yourself, just remember that if you have a lesion on the skin which does not heal as you would expect it to, it needs to be looked at by a doctor or dermatologist.
So now onto moles and checking for signs of melanoma. In dermatology you will often hear us talking about checking your moles using the A to E criteria. Let me explain what this is:-
- A = Asymmetry. If you divide the mole in half is it the same on both halves?
- B = Boarder. Is the boarder regular without notches?
- C = Colour. Is the colour uniform and even throughout?
- D = Diameter. Is it less than 6mm in diameter?
- E = Expert. If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above questions, the mole needs to be looked at by an expert.
It is important to note that even if your moles fit the criteria above (for example they are irregular in colour) this doesn’t necessarily mean they are melanoma. For some people it is quite normal to have irregular looking moles but this is where an expert eye can be reassuring. Also, if you ever notice a new mole or any changes in a pre-existing mole, these should also be looked at by a dermatologist.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’, well in terms of skin cancer there are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk. Since we know that the vast majority of skin cancers are caused by UV radiation, it’s important to become sun savvy. Wear sunscreen daily, anything above an SPF 30 and make sure that it is broad spectrum which means that it will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. During the warmer months avoid the sun when it is highest in the sky, usually between 11am-3pm and don’t forget to wear a sunhat! Avoid sunbeds at all costs and be aware that a tan is a sign that your skin has already suffered damage. The only way to safely tan is by using fake tan. Start taking these simple measures now and your skin will thank you in the long term.
Natalie Fisher, Sensica skincare expert